The area came just shy of Austin Public Health's goal to reach 70% partial vaccination of eligible residents by Independence Day—a goal shared by the White House. Travis County's vaccination levels surpass the nation's and the state's; however, around 64.4% of eligible U.S. residents have received at least one dose, and 58.22% of eligible Texans have.
Based on DSHS data, 60.78% of eligible county residents have been fully vaccinated, and 54.14% of the total population have been fully vaccinated.
Public health experts, including local experts at APH, have floated 70% vaccination of the total population as the threshold at which the public could establish herd immunity to COVID-19. However, Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County health authority, said herd immunity could be further away than originally expected due to the rising prevalence of contagious coronavirus variants, including the Delta variant.
“We continue to monitor our case numbers and hospital admissions as we know that there will be an impact on these due to the presence of the Delta variant. We will make adjustments in our recommendations accordingly,” Walkes said in a July 7 news release.
APH so far has not confirmed any cases of the Delta variant in Travis County, but neighbors, including Williamson County, have. As of July 7, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the Delta variant accounts for more than half of U.S. coronavirus cases and more than 58% of cases in Texas.
The strain is more contagious and dangerous than the original virus, according to the CDC. While the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines provide protection against Delta, and studies on the effectiveness of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine against the strain are pending, unvaccinated individuals may be at a higher risk of hospitalizations and severe health effects if they contract it.
Meanwhile, Travis County is seeing an uptick in COVID-19 hospitalizations: As of July 7, the Austin area had a seven-day moving average of 13.9 daily coronavirus-related hospital admissions, up from a low of 6.6 on June 19. At a daily moving average of 15, APH could recommend a return to Stage 3 pandemic safety guidelines.
“Our advice remains the same: Get vaccinated. It’s the best way to protect yourself, your loved ones and your neighborhood as a whole,” interim APH Director Adrienne Sturrup said in the release.